King’s Shadow (The Silent Years)
[Note: The Salome in this book is not the dancing Salome of the “head of John the Baptist” and seven veils fame. This Salome is the sister of Herod the Great.]
Judea, 37 BCE. Herod the Great wins out in the deadly struggle to be crowned king of the Jews and persuades the Romans that he will be their loyal client-king. He’s also about the last candidate left standing. Herod has the throne – now he must keep it. Aiding him is his sister Salome, who will stop at nothing to support her brother’s ambition. Salome’s maid, Zara, is Salome’s mirror: a truly pious Jew, kind, and truthful. Despite the difference in their stations, princess and maid become friends (insomuch as Salome has friends), and as the years pass, they help each other survive the often deadly court.
But as Herod’s ambition and paranoia grow, he lashes out at anyone he even suspects of disloyalty. (As Salome muses on page 224, “Herod did not seem to mind HaShem sitting on the throne of heaven, but if for one moment he thought Adonai wanted to sit on the throne of Judea, Herod would mount a war against heaven itself.”) Both Salome and Zara must walk a treacherous path that may lead to safety – or to death.
King’s Shadow is another engrossing read from Angela Hunt, who knows how to bring a Biblical time period to vivid life. The book’s only real problem can’t be helped: many of the historical characters have the same name, and far too many of those names begin with A! (There are two people named Aristobolus; fortunately one of them dies fairly fast. And “Alexandra” and “Alexander” seem to have been the “Jennifer and Jason” of the Judean kingdom.) However, Hunt weaves her way through the history and the names with skill and grace.